Background/Aims: Opioids cause gastrointestinal (GI) dysmotility, decrease gut secretion, and affect gut sphincters. Symptoms of opioid-induced bowel dysfunction may be alleviated by peripherally acting opioid antagonists like naloxegol, but detailed knowledge on GI effects of this drug is lacking. We hypothesized that naloxegol, compared to placebo, would reduce GI transit time and colonic fecal volume in opioid-treated healthy participants.
Methods: We conducted a randomized, double-blinded, single-center, 2-way cross-over study in 24 healthy males, randomized to a 6 day treatment period of oxycodone (15 mg twice a day) co-administered with either naloxegol (25 mg once a day) or matching placebo. Participants swallowed an electromagnetic capsule which determined GI transit times. Colonic fecal volume was quantified with magnetic resonance imaging both pre-treatment and post-treatment.
Results: Naloxegol reduced total GI transit time by 21% (56 hours vs 71 hours, P = 0.02) and colonic transit time by 23% (45 hours vs 59 hours, P < 0.01), compared to placebo. However, no difference in colonic fecal volume was found (818 mL vs 884 mL, P = 0.20).
Conclusion: Short-term administration of naloxegol in healthy participants reverses the retardation of total GI and colonic transit induced by oxycodone. This supports the use of naloxegol in the treatment of GI side effects to opioid treatment, and add knowledge to the current understanding of mechanisms behind peripherally-acting opioid antagonists.